Hi,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in favor GW Bush over Al Gore in the Florida recount (2000), it is Frank Sinatra’s birth anniversary (1915), it is the 225 anniversary of Pennsylvania ratifying the US Constitution and it is the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a major Mexican holiday.

Several new birds of prey have been added to The National Aviary.  The new cast members include a four year old Bald Eagle, a Snowy Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk.  The Aviary’s collection contains 600 specimens of 200 species.  Like Phipps, it’s always a nice place to pretend you’re not in Pittsburgh in the winter.

Not surprising, the film industry is phasing out 35 mm and Blu-ray discs and are adopting Digital Cinema Packages (DCP’s as they are known in the industry).  DCP is portable hard drives which download movies into computers at the theater.  This format gives a higher quality film and is a safe guard against pirating.  Unfortunately, it is quite costly, $35K to $50K per screen which quite possibly will make it inaccessible to the small theaters around the country.

I found a cool site, Mom and Pop Motels is an internet directory of non-franchised, independently owned and operated hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns, and vacation rentals. No chains are allowed!  And a convenient and easy way for travelers to find a cool place to stay.  First of all, Mom and Pop Motels are most likely less expensive. Go ahead, call around. If you are traveling on a budget or like to watch what you spend, a Mom and Pop will suit your needs much more comfortably. Plus, staying at Mom and Pop motels contributes directly to family-run businesses and their local economies.  I need to add my listing to their site.

Another small business advocate site I found is vintage roadside attractions.  They talk about roadside diners, attractions, motor courts, etc, but you have to work to find things.  The way it’s set up is you go to their gift shop (and you can do this by category) and click on the tee shirt of the location that caught your interest.  Below the retro shirt is the history from where it came from.  Some attractions are still open, some are closed.  If you are into retro, a very good find for you.  They also talk about trips they’ve taken in their blog and look for stories from their followers that they post as well.  The thing I didn’t like is they don’t have a search feature.  You can’t type in Pittsburgh, PA somewhere and see what vintage attractions are in a location.  They do have some excellent links on their links page.  I’m not overly whining about this, it’s still definitely a worthwhile site to visit.

If you want to take a road trip, Koziar’s Christmas Village over in Bernville, PA (about four or five hours east of here) is a family farm creation of 500,000 lights on ten acres.  The tradition, began in 1948, was William Koziar’s idea of decorating his farm for the holidays for his wife and two small children.  Each year, William would add new displays.  The family has continued this tradition and you can image what they have created in sixty-four years.  The farm is still owned by the family and they get started in August, open in early November and close right after the holidays.  It really is a sight to see.

I got two of the nicest e-mails today.  Several years ago Patrick and his family relocated here from New England to take over the Mon Valley Initiative, a non profit like Pittsburgh’s URA trying to foster growth and job in the Mon Valley.  Initially, when they bought their first house and was remodeling it, his parents Bob and Monica would stay with me.  This is their recent e-mail:

“Ed-Monica and I just received your Christmas card today and enjoyed seeing the picture of you and your “family” as well as reading what you’ve been up to. It then made us go to your web site and begin reading your blog. The City of Pittsburgh should have you do their public announcements for them. Now when we come to visit Pat and his family, we’ll know where to look to see what’s going on. We’ve always enjoyed our stays at the Parador but hope you understand that we enjoy too, being able to stay right with Pat and his family. Should he ever run out of room, we would certainly return. Hope you continue your success with the Parador and have a great holiday season-and I hope you can get the Steelers back to winning.”

The second e-mail was from Norma from Aletier, a company out of Philly that specializes in moving higher end objects, the founder Hal Jones worked for the Philadelphia Museum Art Museum and saw a need for a specialized company for this.  Norma arranges all the details and about a week ago, called and wanted to do something a little special for her guys instead of the normal Motel 6.  The guys stayed with me last night and here’s what she wrote:

“Hello Ed!

Big thanks from Atelier for taking care of our guys.  They seemed to really enjoy the decor and said they were very comfortable.  It was a very special treat for them to get away from the usual roadside motel. One of them even hugged me in happiness when they got back to the office.   I hope to book with you again next time our guys are out that way.”

In the 1960′s, Joyce Byers decided to make her own Christmas decorations because she couldn’t find ones that reflected her taste.  She started creating decorations on her kitchen table using coat hangers as the base skeleton and then adding paper mache, paper scraps, pieces of cloth, ribbons and other scrap items lying around.  She kind of settled on her more iconic rounded mouth carolers that she is so famous for.  At friends’ requests, she started making them as gifts and occasionally for sale.  She started selling them full time at the Woman’s Craft Exchange in Wayne, PA.  When her husband’s construction business went bust in the 1970, the whole family moved into the garage “factory” and started Byer’s Choice LTD.  They now have a real factory in Chalfont, PA cranking out hundreds of thousands of the carolers that are carried in 2,500 gift shops nationwide.  They still use coat hangers at the basic skeleton and employ 120 local artists to complete the figurines.  Although some of the pieces are generated in bulk, each figurine is finished by one of the 120 and so each are unique.  If you want to tour the factory, they are located in just outside State College and the factory tour takes you over the factory and you can look down that the artists creating their pieces.  One collector has over 4,000 figurines.  The price has gone up from the $12 back in the 1970′s, most are in the $70 range.  Not bad.

So here’s some holiday pictures from The Parador Inn:

The exterior:

Coconut ornaments:

The colorful objects in the top panel of the windows are actual coconuts that I spray painted and then painted holiday images like the green one on the right with a snowman the red one on the left with Christmas trees.

My more formal tree in the Parlor:

Festive lights in the Library:

And what would a Caribbean Inn be without a Caribbean tree:

Some of it you can make out in the picture.  It is covered with hand painted tropical fish, ornaments made from various sea shells, nautically themed ornaments and the red garland is actual real commercial fish netting that I cut into strips and spray painted red.

Well, that’s about it for now, have a great one,

ed